Friday, 3 October 2014

Is Pluto a Planet Again?

Some stories just won't die without a fight and neither will some planets. Pluto was kicked out of the planet club in 2006 and is now known as a "dwarf planet" or "minor planet". An article today at stuff.co.nz makes it sound like there's a new movement of support for Pluto becoming a planet again, but in fact this is nothing new - astronomers have been arguing about it for many years and will continue to do so for many more.

One important point the article missed is that next year NASA's New Horizons will be the first spacecraft to fly past Pluto. It will be all over the news so 2015 is the year when Pluto supporters will probably make a big push to get public opinion on their side.

Whether Pluto does ever back its planet status is anybody's guess as it depends so much on the personal views of people in scientific-political positions. However it's very unlikely that anything will change in the foreseeable future, even with all the publicity coming next year. The wheels of change turn slowly at the International Astronomical Union and they aren't likely to want to reverse such a major decision less than 10 years after it was made.

So for now, and probably for a long time, we have 8 planets in our solar system.

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